A year after the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs – were launched, Seychelles has been ranked as the top performing African country in meeting various health related targets of the SDGs. Seychelles is number one in Africa and number 40 in the world with a total score of 71. Of African countries, Mauritius comes next in the world list at number 48 with the third, Cape Verde at number 123.
This list is part of a study entitled “Measuring the health-related Sustainable Development Goals in 188 countries: a baseline analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015” and has been published in the leading journal The Lancet.
In September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly set the global development agenda for the next 15 years. The adoption of the new sustainable development goals – SDGs – included a range of targets to tackle the world’s development challenges. A total of 17 SDGs, along with their 169 targets and 230 indicators, were adopted with a deadline of 2030. The goals replaced the millennium development goals which expired in 2015.
The authors of this new study conducted research into what progress had been made towards the goals in 188 countries. To do this they developed an index built around the Goals and their targets. Goal three specifically relates to health and tackles maternal and child mortality, non-communicable diseases, universal health coverage and mental health. In addition to Goal three, 10 of the other 16 sustainable development goals have health-related targets. This includes, for example, reducing poverty (Goal one) and helping people to access clean water and sanitation (Goal six) and the researchers examined all of these. They used data collected between 2000 and 2015. Each country was allocated an overall SDG index score. It is the first time the index is being used. Iceland scored the highest on the index, tallying 85.
“Although this research is concerned with health related targets, it examines 11 of the 17 SDGs and as such it is an excellent indicator of national progress on the SDGs in general” says Dr. Nirmal Shah, the Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles. Dr. Shah who made a keynote presentation on the SDGs and the environment at the recent national workshop on launching the SDGs in Seychelles and who has written several articles about the SDGs says that studies of this kind are vital.
The 17 SDG goals and 169 targets highlight the need for solutions to “the world’s urgent development issues, with all countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, [to] implement this plan”, says the United Nations. But many experts ask whether it is really possible to deliver the SDG agenda and what would it take to do so. While there is agreement on what the global goals should be, the likelihood of achieving these goals by 2030 varies across regions and countries.
“Nature Seychelles has understood both the importance and challenge of the new global goals and has been aligning its programs towards the SDGs since last year. It is the first civil society organization in the country to do so and to have put the SDGs front and center of its agenda – for example the SDGs are prominent on the home page of the NGO’s award winning website”, says Dr. Shah. The NGO has been focusing on its progress towards Goal 14 the Ocean Goal, Goal 15 Life on Land, Goal 13 Climate Change and Goal 17 Partnerships for the SDGs.
Dr. Shah notes that some previous attempts to look at progress on the targets of the SDGs omit Seychelles because of seeming lack of data, or as in the case of the new Overseas Development Institute SDG report for Sub Saharan Africa include scoring for Seychelles for only a few of the goals (in the case of the ODI report only).
“Missing or outdated data is a big problem for Seychelles and oftentimes global listings and studies either leave us out or use old or incomplete data thus possibly giving a misleading picture” he says. “Data on health are collected regularly in Seychelles and are quite robust so inclusion in this study will really help the country in examining all the SDGs and looking for progress towards the target” Shah concludes.
Of the ten countries at the bottom of the new list that failed to make significant progress in achieving the health-related SDG targets, nine are African. The worst performing African countries have not managed to reduce maternal or child mortality or malaria. What is noticeable about the 10 worst performing nations was that all had experienced civil unrest, mostly because of political instability. Civil conflicts result in mass migration of people, low economic development, hunger and poor access to health services.